By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
MORE than 35 percent of University of the Bahamas survey respondents experienced either statutory rape or sex without their consent, according to new research published in the International Journal of Bahamian Studies.
Nearly 19 percent of female respondents “had been raped due to” being younger than the age of consent, 16, at the time of their first sexual intercourse experience while nearly 17 percent of women were raped due to not giving consent when they were of age.
Among male respondents, nearly 24 percent experienced statutory rape while about 12 percent reported having sexual intercourse experiences without their consent when they were of age.
According to the study, 30 percent of the students surveyed believed people within a marriage cannot rape each other.
The research by Dr Nicolette Bethel, Chair of Social Sciences and William Fielding, Director of Planning at the university, attempts to expand the understanding of consent prior to sexual intercourse.
It included responses from 621 eligible people over the age of 18 who were registered at the university in the Fall of 2019.
“The circumstances under which participants had sexual intercourse indicate that some had not only been victims of abuse, but some had also abused others by having sex with underage persons or when their partners were unable to give consent,” the researchers said.
“Our findings suggest that individual respondents may not have a full understanding of their own agency, and certainly suggest an imperfect knowledge of their rights in situations of sexual pressure.”
Among participants, 15.6 percent of men and 24 percent of women said they had had sexual intercourse when they were physically or mentally unable to give consent.
Nearly 16 percent of men and 15.4 percent of women said they had sexual intercourse when their partner was physically or mentally unable to give consent.
Eleven percent of women and 2.8 percent of male respondents said they had sexual intercourse with a person because they were afraid of that person.
And four percent of women and 11.9 percent of men said they had sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16.
Furthermore, “12.7 percent of males and 26.4 percent of females consented to unwanted sexual intercourse.”
“The self-reported responses of ever being raped, show a cumulative pattern of a steady increase in lifetime rape for females and a much lower cumulative increase in the case of males,” the researchers said.
A connection was found between age of first sexual intercourse and intimate partner violence (IPV), with the researchers concluding that “in the case of females, there was an association between age of first sexual intercourse and being a victim of IPV.”
“This suggests,” they wrote, “that, particularly when the first sexual experience was to some extent coerced, IPV might start in early teenage years.”
The researchers concluded that “the link between rape and first sexual intercourse means that greater efforts should be made to encourage children to delay engaging in sexual intercourse.”
They wrote: “None of the males reported their rape, and 17.3 percent of females reported their rape. This highlights the under-reporting which is associated with an extreme form of sexual abuse.”
The researchers found that there is a “difference between perceived occurrence of rape and its occurrence consistent with the law.”
“Some students also admitted to having been perpetrators of sexual abuse/rape by having sex with underage persons,” they wrote. “This suggests that students are either ignorant of the law or feel that the sexual partner in their private life is beyond the protection/reach of the law. This is an attitude which was made evident in the marital rape debate and public comments made by government ministers who indicated that sexual intercourse, particularly within marriage, was a private matter and, so, beyond the reach of legislation to protect either party.
“Interpreting the data according to the law, many students failed to recognise that they had been sexually abused/raped. This points to inadequate education regarding sexual abuse and curtails the ability of the authorities to enforce the law regarding abuse or rape, as these events would not be reported.”
Dr Bethel and Mr Fielding wrote that their study confirmed “misconceptions surrounding victimisers of rape/sexual abuse,” noting that the perception of who was most likely to be a rapist was “dissimilar to the actual experiences of respondents…”
They also found that people who did not have sex with only those of the opposite sex were at greater risk of sexual abuse than straight people.
“Again, given the stigma associated with non-heterosexual intercourse, this means that this subset of the population may be deprived protection by the law as they would be reluctant to report abuse by a member of the same sex,” they wrote.
Of the male participants in the survey, 9.2 percent said their sex partners were only men, 88.1 percent said only females were their sex partners and 2.8 percent said both male and female were their partners. Among women, 85.2 percent said their sexual patterns were only men, one percent said only female and 13.8 percent said both male and female.
“In the general United States population, 8.2 percent had experienced some sex sexual activity…so the results from this study are in line with this figure, bearing in mind that younger age groups are more likely to identify with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual,” the researchers wrote. “In the United Kingdom, in the 16-24 age group, 13.8 percent of males and 12.6 percent of females identified as having a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, which suggests that the figures for college students in The Bahamas are aligned with the United Kingdom. This finding is of assistance when we note that heterosexual sexual intercourse is associated with a lower likelihood of harm compared with sexual encounters between persons of other sexual orientations. This becomes important in terms of these people obtaining support and assistance in failed relationships in a society which is regarded by some as homophobic.”